Marking progress towards a circular economy for lighting


The path to a circular economy for lighting is becoming significantly clearer, suggests recycling firm Recolight, reporting on the findings and discussions to have emerged from a series of webinars it has held on the topic over the past couple of years.

“It has been really encouraging to see the discussions move beyond ‘what needs to be done’ and towards ‘what is actually happening’,” said CEO Nigel Harvey. “There is clearly still a lot to do – but it is starting to happen.”

“The transition to lighting for the circular economy is shaping up to be as profound and disruptive as the transition to LEDs in the 2000s,” according to Ray Molony of Build Back Better Awards. “We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the challenges – and opportunities – it will generate.”

Practical steps
When it comes to identifying practical steps towards establishing a circular economy in this area, the group says its webinars have received contribution from over 40 experts from across the lighting industry, and some of the prominent themes to have emerged are as follows:

• Resource depletion will begin to drive up the cost of raw materials, leading to more use of recycled materials.
• Recycling is not always the best solution! (see John Bullock quote below)
• Several companies, including Recolight, have introduced new services to facilitate the reuse and repair of fittings. Remanufacturers have indicated they will provide warranties and certification of reused product.
• Maintenance and manufacturing companies have an emerging opportunity to offer to remanufacture or reconditioning services.
• Specifiers have a crucial role to play in educating end users about the importance of using products which embody Circular Economy principles.
“The shift towards a circular economy in lighting is a challenge but also a great opportunity. For specifiers, this is our time to take clients and collaborators on the journey with us, to awaken an appetite for re-use and re-purposing of luminaires. For all of us, there is an opportunity to re-assess our relationship with lighting, that could lead to a greater appreciation of it, and a greater understanding of the real cost of making a new luminaire.” Ruth Kelly Waskett, Senior Associate at Hoare Lea and President of the Society of Light & Lighting.
• BS8887 (the new draft luminaire remanufacturing standard) and TM66 (method to assess compliance of luminaires with circular economy principles) will both help end users and specifiers make the right product choices.
• The industry will benefit from guidelines that identify best practice. The LIA have since created a task force and published a technical statement: The Circular Economy interim guide.
• Reforms to the WEEE Regulations will incentivise re-use, and circular business models. Defra is considering setting separate targets for re-use.

Summarising the outcome of the 2021 webinar series, John Gorse, Technical Solutions Manager at Signify said: “Global commitments on sustainability and carbon for the future are essential but we have to wait for them to be realised. This series of Webinars has shown what lighting can actually do right now without restrictive costs or new mandatory legislation. Smart LED technology is low capex, easy to install, and when applied correctly is sustainable, circular and immediately cuts emissions that have a real impact on slowing and stopping temperature rise and climate change.”

Further information

  • BS8887 – The process of remanufacture
    Lighting specific edition is under review with a team from across the lighting industry.
  • TM66: The CIBSE and SLL Technical Memorandum: Creating a Circular Economy in the Lighting Industry.
    Published in October 2021, TM 66 is an algorithm which quantifies how circular a lighting product actually is. It’s clearly key to empowering specifiers to make informed choices and choose fittings that have robust circularity credentials.
  • The LIA Technical Statements LIA TS41
    The Circular Economy: an interim guide
  • The Green Light Alliance
    An alliance of suppliers, specifiers, and educators with an objective to help everyone in the lighting sector understand their role in adopting and promoting the circular economy.
  • LightingEurope guidelines
    Ecodesign and energy labelling
  • The Regen Initiative
    Reusing, reengineering and remanufacturing from a localised supply chain, in line with circular economy principles.
  • Recolight’s Re-use services
    Helping to avoid unnecessary recycling in the lighting industry

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